Plans for St. Thomas Aquinas site to be discussed

Published on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 22:17


NEW BRITAIN - Developers will appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals on May 18 to advance plans to revitalize the former St. Thomas Aquinas High School property.

TO Design LLC, the New Britain land planning firm, is scheduled to request four variances for parking and housing units related to the multi-million dollar renovation project led by the Chrysalis Center Real Estate Corp.

The organization is an arm of the Hartford-based Chrysalis Center social services agency. Last September, the group entered an $80,000 purchase agreement with the city to convert the blighted and long-vacant parochial school on Kelsey Street into market-rate apartments.

Plans call for a $6 million historic rehabilitation of the campus into 35 apartment units - three efficiencies, seven one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units and seven three-bedroom units. The design also includes a community room and gymnasium.

Approval of the chief variance request would permit the multi-family development to move forward in what is a two-family zoning district. The ZBA is also being asked to consider variances to regulations that require 3,000-square-feet of lot area per dwelling. The 35-unit proposal is four more than would be permissible based on the size of the parcel.

Additionally, the project does not conform to city regulations that call for a maximum building coverage of 30 percent of a property. With current calculations and a proposed vestibule on Kelsey Street, the lot coverage would be a little over 44 percent.

The applicant is also claiming a hardship related to regulations that require two off-street parking spaces per unit, which would total 70. The project can only accommodate 39 spaces, including two reserved for the handicapped. In recommending approval of the variance requests, the City Plan Commission said the effect of limited parking is expected to be minimal since many tenants will likely not own vehicles.

Similar variance applications were approved when a housing development was proposed at the site in 2005, according to City Planner Steve Schiller.

Generations of New Britain natives graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas and lamented its loss when the Archdiocese of Hartford, facing dwindling enrollment at its parochial schools, closed it in 1999.

The deal with the city last year allowed Chrysalis to begin its financing applications for tax credits and other state and federal support.

The agency last month was granted $2.3 million in Department of Housing funding in support of its plans to renovate the abandoned Courtland Arms apartment building on Court Street. Chrysalis plans 24 one-bedroom units, including four dedicated to supportive housing, 17 units with affordable rents and three market-rate units.

The ZBA will meet at 6 p.m. on May 18 at City Hall, 27 West Main St.

Christopher Fortier can be reached at 860-801-5063 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Business, New Britain on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 22:17. Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2017 22:19.